Thursday, December 27, 2012

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon

The envelope please…

The winners, the losers, the snubs, the back stories, the gossip, the players, the games…this time it’s all about Oscar!

We’re back! Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen, Paula (@Paula_Guthat) of Paula's Cinema Club and I aka Kellee (@IrishJayhawk66) of Outspoken and Freckled are hosting a new, mammoth blogathon event that coincides with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar, February 1 to March 3, 2013. It’ll be a month filled with fabulous tales and screen wonders.

But this one is not just for classic film fare; we want to see and hear it all from the golden man’s more than eighty-year history, up to and including this year’s nominees. And you don’t have to stick to just Best Picture or acting winners. Posts about nominees or winners in all the other categories…Original Screenplay, Costume Design, Cinematography, etc….are more than welcome.

The details:
Let us know what you’ll be writing about by email [prattkellee[at]] or leave us a comment.
Submit links to as many posts as you would like by email or by comments in time for any of the following due dates throughout the month. Submissions should include as much information about you as possible: First name, Twitter username, link(s) to your site(s) and email address.

January 31
February 7
February 14
February 21
February 28

We’ll promote entries for an entire week after each due date. If you have a preferred promotion date, please make a note of that as well. However, we welcome all submissions by any of the dates specified.

This is the banner our lovely co-host Paula created for the blogathon. We encourage you display it on your site to help promote this event and cannot wait to hear from you. See you on the red carpet!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Top 25 Movies of 2012

This year has been a great year for film. I hope many of my favorites to be deservedly nominated for the coveted Oscar. It's timely that I should share my favorites from 2012. My whacky, fun, and film-obsessed gal-pals Aurora of Once Upon A Screen ( @citizenscreen) and Paula of Paula's Cinema Club ( @Paula_guthat) and I are about to launch an enormous Blogathon of epic proportions. More details coming out VERY soon!

Let's look back at some of the highlights from the last 12 months in cinema. My taste in film spans in genres from the silly comedies to mega-blockbusters to indies and pretty much everything in between. You'll notice my favorites reflect my diverse and eclectic range. In no particular order I offer up:

- I'm confident this film will be nominated for several Oscars and may very well win Best Picture category. It's my pick too and a real triumph for Ben Affleck's directing skills. It's my opinion that he directed THE TOWN (2010) very skillfully as well with his best work being behind the camera. Even though we already know the outcome, based on history; the climatic tension points are serious nail-biters. I was on the edge of my seat as the story unfolded.
- I really enjoyed this sci-fi thriller. It's a more unique plot and it's another example that Bruce Willis chooses his sci-fi vehicles well. Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows us again that he's one of the very best young actors working today.
- What an enjoyable coming-of-age mini journey. It is signature Wes Anderson film making; both in style and with it's ecsquistate cast... Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Jason Schwartz, Tilda Swinton and more. The wit is sublimely delicious.
- I won't deny that I thoroughly enjoy the superhero flicks. Of the latest Marvel characters and blockbusters... IronMan, Thor, Hulk and Captain America- all of these and a couple more are represented in this. However, due to the mastery of Joss Whedon and his artistic story-telling ability to bring the best in character development and humor, we get SO much more than a reunion of superheroes. This movie was absolutely marvel-ous and a top-grosser with good reason.
-More and more, Jack Black reminds us that there's more to him than the overt physical comedian. This film is an intriguing story about a uniquely charming yet odd character in a small town whose stand-out qualities brings compassionate support from his fellow citizens, even in the face of lies and murder. Black plays this role so superbly and with tremendous sympathy, you find yourself rooting for this exceptional character even when you know you shouldn't. Shirley MacLaine is divine as always.
- I'm a Bond girl. No, not that kind. I've always been a James Bond film fan. Bond films are predictable for a certain formula that's repeated in every Bond flick. Based on Ian Fleming's books of this strong spy character, the films may change the actors over the years but we've grown to expect the same evil villians, the gorgeous Bond girls, beautiful and exototic locales, fast cars, spy gadgets, and supporting cast of Q, M and Money Penny. But Skyfall stood apart from the others for me. It seemed less formula-driven and more focused on a quality action movie. All the Bond traits were present but instead of feeling like a forced formula or campy, it was simply well-done. Daniel Craig is incredibly talented and brings the raw physicality the role demands. I won't reveal too much for those who havent seen it, but there are some wonderful nostalgia nods for us classic Bond fans, too.
- This is a sweetly witty Indie film that explores the intimate play-out of the layered relationships of an aimless man, his friend and her sister. This film takes it's time to explore the natural minutia of a love triangle and it's well-acted with a cast that includes Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass and Rosemarie DeWitt.
- Here's another Oscar prediction for me. I believe Lincoln will be nominated for Best Picture amongst other noms and may indeed win. I wasn't certain before seeing Lincoln if they were going to cover part or his entire life in a broad scope of specific timelines, including his assasination. SPOILER ALERT: Turns out, the plot mainly covers the behind the scenes politics regarding the 13th Admendment and his 2nd term as President. I've always been an ardent fan of President Lincoln and there have been many films to cover this popular President. My favorite was always Henry Fonda's charming and funny portrayal of YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (1939). But I'm so blown away by Daniel Day-Lewis's portrayal here that I predict that he will not only be nominated for Best Actor but will assuredly win that golden statuate, too.
-This film is getting a great deal of Oscar buzz too- and it's not surprising why. It's a close look at some very real characters with some very real problems. Bradley Cooper adeptly plays a troubled soul, just released from rehab with acutely obsessive traits that centers on his cheating wife and the trauma triggered by that jarring discovery. He gets help and support from family (his father played by Robert DeNiro shows the fruit doesn't fall very far from the tree) and friends- including a new friend played by the very talented Jennifer Lawrence. But we see that in real-life, our friends and family have their own troubles and flaws, too. On a side note, I was also pleased to see Chris Tucker included in this great cast in such a wonderful vehicle.
-I was practically dragged to this film. I had low expectations going into this as I anticipated it to be some campy animated kids' rehash of any Tim Burton production. I was actually pleasantly surprised. Yes, it's undoubtedly trademark Tim Burton style but not in a tired and over-done way. Instead, it was a surprisingly fresh twist to the classic Burton style. It almost felt like the 1st time watching EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990). Despite a generally predictable plot, there are some very funny scenes and without giving away too much, I urge you to look out for a litle girl and her kitty. Hilarious and magnificent animation.
-Unlike so many folks, I have not read this popular book so I went in with an open-mind- only assuming from trailers it has something to do with a young man curiously stuck in a boat with a tiger. I won't give away the plot here but it was an interesting and absolutely beautiful adventure. I recommend seeing it in 3-D, as it's worth the higher ticket price.
- This was another movie I grudgingly attended yet exited with serendipity. The animation style was unique with a nice departure from the typical Pixar/Disney fare. This story was surprisingly sweet and heart-felt for a Halloween theme with character development. It's a great family film for most ages.
-It's rare when a third film in a series/franchise of mega-budget blockbuster is both financially successful and as critically acclaimed as this one. This Batman film does not dissapoint but rather delivers a roller coaster of constant action, a steady stream of plot twists and turns, dark stylings from director Chris Nolan with a solid cast of perfectly suited actors. It even has some emotionally charged moments. For a fun thrill ride, skip the pricey amusement park pass make an insignificant investment in this film.
- For me, this was the most hilarious film of 2012. I give full warning that one must possess a dark and kinda twisted sense of humor to fully appreciate the comedic genius of this. Sam Rockwell, Colin Firth and Christopher Walken are spot-on. Although the storyline can be rather fiendish, if you're as sick-humored as myself I think you will find yourself in stiches. I honestly think this was one of the best films I've seen all year (in a year of many greats.)
- This film takes on the gritty and uncomfortable subject of addiction, a great deal more than aviation (the opposite of what I expected from the trailers). Denzel Washington gives a stellar performance and should be nominated for Best Actor for this role. The core plot and ending was fairly predictable but Washington's contribution makes it more than worthwhile.
- I really enjoyed this movie. It was delightfully different to see such an honest and close look at intimacy of married couples in their mature years. It was less cliche than it could have been but instead took on a more respectful view of the realities and challenges of marriage deep into the hum-drum routine of decades together. Both Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are terrific. And in reference to his supporting role, I always enjoy seeing Steve Carell take on less humor-based roles as he brings a certain sensitivity with authenticity.
- Raunchy yes, but damn funny. I'm a Seth McFarlane and "Family Guy" fan so I'm clearly the right audience for this level of humor. If you enjoy toilet humor with a bit of FLASH GORDON, you'll appreciate this one.
- I'll admit this one follows a pretty predictable formula but I enjoyed the ride anyway. The pace is fast, as it should be, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers supremely as usual. I think by now it's obvious I am biased towards Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
- I heard many critics pan LAWLESS when it was released, but I thought it was great. It takes on the story of brothers trying to deal with economic hardship and gangsters during Prohibition, on their own terms...via moonshine. Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Guy Pierce bring the stand-out performances here.
-Another surprising solid third in a series. It's definitely no Oscar contender but special effects are strong and the storyline keeps you engaged enough. Josh Brolin plays the perfect younger version of Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K.
-You gotta LOVE a sassy, independently-minded, strong-willed Celtic lass with a mind of her own. Perhaps I can relate to this young lady just a bit. But I also found myself relating to the mother... in the struggle that every Mom and daughter relationship goes through as the daughter approaches the age of adulthood. There are some very funny and believable scenes of animation skill when the mother turns into a bear. A sweet family film.
- My kids read the books so we went into this film with high anticipation. Although slightly different from the book (as every film usually is), the translation still resulted in a fabulous film. The story is compelling and Jennifer Lawrence gives an especially outstanding performance.
- This witty film with a mostly British and strong ensemble cast, shares multiple characters as they each seek a better life in a renovated hotel in India. The plot is mostly light but the superior acting brings a healthy dose of heart. I found it to be delightful.
- I just saw this last weekend and I'll admit I'm not a big LORD OF THE RINGS fan nor did I read THE HOBBIT book. (Although I believe it was one of my Mom's favorite books.) But I enjoyed this movie very much. It has the right balance of an adventuresome storyline, beguiling characters and a lot of action to keep the quest moving along. If you don't want the HFR effect in 3D, there's always the just as entertaining 2D version.
- We went to see this just last night. I was especially anxious to see this one because I have been a hard-core fan of Hitch since childhood. I was curious to see how they would portray my beloved and obsessively quirky director. Instead of depicting the entire and prolific career of Alfred Hitchcock, most of the film focuses solely on the time he worked on one particular film... a film that made him the most famous (I'll let you figure out that one or simply go see for yourself). But it also explores Hitch's relationship with his wife Alma, in a more intimate and meaningful way. I loved this film and found it to be intriguing. The entire cast is wonderful. Helen Mirren gives integrity to Alma and sympathetic insight to their complex relationship. Anthony Hopkins does an uncanny Hitch portrayal- certain profile and full length shots were chilling in physical similarity. And James D'Arcy is eerily unmistakable as Tony Perkins.

In a 'special mention' for my top 2012 films, I'd like to note that I look forward to seeing Quentin Tarantino's DJANGO UNCHAINED that comes out on Christmas Day. I'll let you know if it should be worthy to add to the list. Also, It's likely I unintentially omitted quality movies that I failed to include. This would be the result of my middle-aged brain forgetting many of the films from earlier in the year or perhaps I simply haven't seen them yet. I've seen all of the films I listed above and an overwhelming majority I watched opening weekend, as I prefer with all the films that pique my interest. Hope you enjoyed my list! What are some of your 2012 film favorites ?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Memories and Holiday Movies

What is it about Christmas time? Even for a non-religious person like me, I'm incredibly sentimental and always the cheerleader of Christmas. As many of you may already know, my husband's twitter handle is @Santaisthinking ... yup, Mr. Kris Kringle himself. So, it is very fitting that I should be Mrs. Claus.

I'm actually one of those lunatic folks that could listen to Christmas music year-round (that is if anyone around me would allow it.) So instead you will find me quietly humming Christmas carols in the kitchen long after the season has ended. And the moment the fresh cut trees hit the lot (often about a week prior to Thanksgiving), I'm there as their first customer. We always decorate our tree with an Irish theme to match my Irish heritage and of course some Hallmark keepsake ornaments, too. I festoon the rest of the house in shades of silver and mercury and with trees, snow globes and a multitude of other holiday decor.

My love for this holiday comes from my mother. She loved Christmas with a passion, too. She once told me, "a Christmas tree isn't magic unless it's a real tree." Since birth, every one of my Christmas trees has been real. Times have been tight many, many times over the years. So there was a couple of my Christmas trees that were actually house plants covered in ornaments because we couldn't afford a Douglas or Fraser fir from the lot. But the Christmas spirit was still present those times- in a Charlie Brown kind of way.

Back when I was a child and when both my mother and grandmother were still alive, Christmas must have been bittersweet for my Mom. She would often fight with her mother at Christmas. My maternal grandmother was bipolar and there was something about that holiday that seemed to bring out the intensity and conflict in her. Fortunately, my mother was the poster child for child-like optimism. So despite that bitter history associated with Christmas, she always made Christmas magical for us. Christmas Eve has always been spent with my mother's side of the family and Christmas day with my father's side. On my father's side, I have fond memories of so many of us - aunts, uncles and cousins (my father has six sisters) all cramming into my grandparents' house... more than a couple dozen of us spread out all over the place. I recall coming over on Christmas days, looking forward to my knee sock stocking that always had the same treasures of an orange, some chocolate and comic books. I loved those youthful holidays where my winter break from school meant countless hours of playing board games and enjoying grandma's cooking with all my aunts, uncles and cousins. This family scheduling tradition has been held over the years without alteration because when you come from such a large Irish family, with extended family and divorces, it's really the only way to see everyone. Christmas morning is reserved for immediate family to see what goodies Santa brings.

One of the fun parts of Christmas time are the holiday movies and TV specials. There are so many favorites I look forward to enjoying, year after year. I'm a fan of so many of both the old classics and some modern ones, too. One of my fondest memories were those Bass Rankin claymation shows. My husband bought the collection years ago so we can continue to enjoy them, along with our own kids. "Charlie Brown Christmas Special", "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" and "Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer" are my favorites. "The Little Drummer Boy" was always my mother's favorite.

My favorite holiday-themed movies are numerous. Of the classics, my family introduced me to the best in Christmas flicks as a child:

It's A Wonderful Life
The Bishop's Wife
The Bells of St. Mary's
Miracle on 34th Street
Christmas in Connecticut
The Thin Man
White Christmas

Despite my obvious affection for classic film, there have been some newer holiday-themed movies that I also enjoy (perhaps with less nostalgia):

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Love Actually
The Holiday
Planes, Trains and Automobiles* (Thanksgiving is actually the holiday here but that's close enough for me)
Die Hard
Home Alone (despite the physical prank and child abandonment focus, it has some very sweet holiday moments)
Four Christmases

All of these above films either take place during the holidays or it's a main topic. Thank you for indulging me as I share my holiday movie list and I hope you enjoy your own holiday favorites this special time of year. Remember to slow down enough from the hectic hustle and bustle to enjoy the lights, the decor, the smells, the sounds, the tastes and all the treasures of what this season means to you, spent with dear friends and family. HAPPY HOLIDAYS from my family to yours...